The IoS diary: Polish Hearth Club hit by economic downturn

By Matthew Bell
Saturday 22 October 2011 21:06

For years it has been the scene of some of literary London's most raucous parties. Now those days could be about to end. News reaches me that the Polish Hearth Club, the shabby-chic eating, drinking and smoking hole in South Kensington, may soon be put up for sale owing to the economic downturn. Established in 1940 as a sanctuary for Polish nationals during the war, in recent years the draughty rococo chambers and terraced garden of this 19th century townhouse have been the venue for countless book launches by writers including Martin Amis, Hugo Vickers and John Walsh. With its sweeping staircase and first floor ballroom, the house could make a splendid private residence, but the canapé circuit will be a poorer place without it. Nobody from the club returned my calls.

For at least half the world's population, Brad and George can do no wrong. But I gather journalists at the Venice Film Festival are thoroughly cheesed off with the smoothy pair after they called a press conference but failed to show up. Apparently a mob of hacks and paps were told to assemble at 5pm for an event to promote the humanitarian aid charity Not On Our Watch, which was co-founded by Pitt and Clooney. But there was no sign of anyone until 8.45, when George turned up alone before swiftly beetling off without answering any questions. Brad didn't turn up until 11.45pm, by which time there were only three die-hard photographers left. "He looked rather disappointed," I'm told. The charity did not return my call.

Jack Straw has promised to look into helping a group of 150 artists who are facing eviction from their studios in west London. One of the artists at the Great Western Studios in Westbourne Park, which is earmarked for development when London's Crossrail project begins, ran into Mr Straw at a party and collared him on the issue. Paul Vanstone, a rising sculptor who has worked with Anish Kapoor and whose own work appears in many top collections, asked the Justice Minister to stop the eviction of the artists when development work begins. Although the building – a converted warehouse – is not scheduled for demolition, constructors want to use it as a depot, and the artists have been told to pack their palettes. Artists who work there include Liza Campbell and Sarah Graham.

Pete Doherty's landlord, the Earl of Cardigan, has, until now, been a keen defender of his tenant. Having previously let Doherty's house on his Wiltshire estate to high-living model Jodie Kidd, he has tolerated years of rock and roll antics. But now relations are fraught as Doherty could be about to go a step too far if he goes ahead with a rumoured gig at his rented house in Savernake Forest. Lord Cardigan has contacted local police to point out that should any gig be held there it would be in breach of Doherty's contract, and would not carry his approval. The barn at Doherty's house was proposed as a venue for a gig by Doherty's manager after police banned him from performing at the nearby Moonfest last Friday.

Mike Phelps, known as the human dolphin after scooping a record eight gold medals at Beijing, has been growing into a fully fledged celebrity since his return. The 23-year-old American has been snapped out and about in London all week, much to the relief of August-weary paps. On Monday he was out posing for a photo shoot at Hampstead Heath's bathing ponds, although he declined to enter the murky green water. He seemed unimpressed by what used to be a malarial marsh, and even had to rush indoors to be sick. "He wasn't very well at all," says my man on the Heath. "He was throwing up in the loo quite a lot ... I think that's why he seemed a bit quiet. He certainly wasn't his normal gregarious self."

Fashionable gallery owner Max Wigram, husband of gamine designer Phoebe Philo, has long been known for his tireless bonhomie on the social circuit. Now we know how he keeps his spirits up. With friend Murray Partridge, Wigram has written a natty little book called 'Never Have a Bad Day Ever Again', a compendium of one-line tips to cheer you up, out in October. These include "crawling around on all fours barking", "thinking about past shags", and "fondling your own buttocks". What fun!

Olympic hero Chris Hoy isn't letting his new found fame go to his head. When asked "what Chris Hoy thinks of Chris Hoy," the Beijing triple gold medallist – and modest Scot – replied, "Chris Hoy thinks that the day Chris Hoy refers to Chris Hoy in the third person is the day that Chris Hoy disappears up his own arse."

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